After picking up a series of back-to-back wins over the past three weeks, the Sugar Kings finally fell to the competition this weekend. Facing the Stratford Warriors Friday evening on away ice, the Kings battled the home team to a near stand-still, knotting the scoreboard 2-2 over the 60-minutes before falling in overtime. Returning to home ice Sunday, the Kings suffered a second setback against the Kitchener Dutchmen, who once again edged out the Elmira team this season.
The pair of losses put an end to the Kings’ four-game winning streak that started with their second match of the season.
It was the Stratford Warriors that ended the winning stretch on October 5. The Kings claimed an early lead on the road, but ended up falling in overtime.
“Our effort was there on Friday. Missing a few pieces but, no, we didn’t get the job done,” said head coach Trent Brown. “We weren’t good enough and we were making some costly mental mistakes, too many turnovers late in the game.
“Dealing with adversity and guys not prepared to start the game, and that echoed again Sunday where we were just completely outworked and out-battled and that wasn’t good enough, especially at home.”
Picking up the first point of the match was Elmira’s Hunter Dubecki on the power play, 14-and-a-half minutes into first, with Jonah Burley and Isaac Taylor claiming the assists. It was the lone goal for the first two frames, putting the Kings in the lead for the first 40 minutes.
There was no scoring in the second, but no shortage of action either. Elmira got slapped with a number of penalties in the first half of the period, but the denouement came after the bell had rung, with a fight sending Stratford’s Nick Jung and Elmira’s Damian Figueira off the ice with some major infractions.
Perhaps missing Figueira’s defensive power, the Kings started to take a hit in the final stanza of the game.
Stratford got on the board at 4:30 of the third, tying the game at 1-1. The Warriors then potted a second, 10 minutes later, putting them in the lead now with less than five minutes to go.
It was Brody Waters who got the teams back on equal footing. Just seconds after the Warriors slotted their second point, the Elmira player tied things up at 2-2 and pushing the game into overtime. Picking up assists were Dubecki and Jeremey Goodwin.
“He’s been great. We always know what we’re going to get from Brody,” said Brown. “He’s going to play his hardest. We knew he was going to be a good player, but I didn’t think we would get these kind of offensive numbers from him this early. There’s no question that it was going to come, but he’s been training hard and he deserves it.”
Water’s is one of several newcomers to the Kings’ roster this year, who Brown notes have been significantly contributing to the team.
“It’s really great for them to contribute. And hopefully it’s a little bit of a wake-up call for the guys who’ve returned and who had thought they were just going to walk in and start contributing. But these young guys are really pushing them.”
Overtime proved to be anyone’s game as both teams were fairly evenly matched. The final goal, when it came, was from Stratford’s Andrew Gunlock 3:21 into the extended game time, and ending the match in the hosts’ favour 3-2.
Special teams were a factor for the Kings, who went 1-3 on the power play but, perhaps more importantly, held the Warriors scoreless in five tries.
After Friday’s narrow loss, the Kings had the opportunity to make hay Sunday evening in a home matchup against the Kitchener Dutchmen.
You can bet the Kings were up for this one, have been soundly beaten 4-0 by the Dutchmen in the first game of the season. Despite the home ice advantage, the Kings fell again, but this time by a narrower 4-2 difference.
“To be honest, I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about Sunday,” said coach Brown. “We were just short of being embarrassed on our home rink. Kitchener played three games in three days that weekend – they played Friday, Saturday, Sunday – we had an off day on Saturday, and we weren’t ready to play.
“They’re a team that just works hard,” he added of the Dutchmen. “They’ll play an honest game.”
The Kings took the lead in this game as well. Drawing first blood 12 minutes into the first was Elmira’s Zack Cameron (Tyson Hillier, Dubecki).
However, responding just seconds later, at 12:28, was Kitchener’s Alex Peterson (Kole Scott), knotting the game up 1-1 for the remainder of the period.
The Dutchmen doubled down on the goal five minutes into the second frame with a power play marker, putting them ahead 2-1.
Elmira’s Hillier (Dubecki, Goodwin) responded at 17:25, tying the game for a second time. It was 2-2, but with just a minute left on the clock, Kitchener came back with the game-deciding goal, setting them 3-2 for the final 20 minutes of game time.
The final frame saw no scoring until the last minute of the match, with the Dutchmen capping off the scorning with an empty-netter to make it 4-2.
In power plays, Kitchener had the decisive edge, getting seven man-advantages and scoring once. The Sugar Kings proved to play the less disciplined game, getting four opportunities and scoring on none.
Suffering back-to-back losses after a four-game winning streak, the Sugar Kings slipped in the division rankings over the weekend to fifth place at 4-2-0-1. That’s narrowly behind fourth place’s Dutchmen (5-4).
The Kings will be facing a single team this weekend, the Brantford 99ers, followed by a rematch against Kitchener and Stratford the week after. On Saturday, the Kings will be away to take on the 99ers in a 7 p.m. matchup.
After a week’s rest, the Sugar Kings will be back on home ice the following weekend, October 21, for a rematch against the Warriors. The Kings will then take on the Dutchmen during the week – October 23 – for an away game.
“We’ve got some wins together this season, and that’s fantastic, but we haven’t beat anybody that’s above us in the standings yet. The takeaway, I would say, is that we can’t take a night off,” said Brown.